The depositary that is directly in contact with the ultimate beneficiary of the deposit should be obliged to deliver a certificate of entitlement enabling the beneficiary to take part in the meeting and cast his vote, give a proxy to whom he prefers or take cast his vote electronically in advance of the meeting. This would greatly simplify the present system and lay the responsibility for shareholder absenteeism where it belongs, i.e. with the shareholder himself. It would allow individual shareholders to support actions undertaken by engaging shareholders, if such is needed. On the other hand it would only require the bank to ensure that the shareholders securities are held somewhere in the chain, what he is expected to do in any case.
In addition, and building on the infrastructure developed to facilitate cross-border voting, we believe a "light" form of proxy solicitation may be helpful in mustering support for engaged shareholders. We would recommend that such a system of proxy solicitation is set up across the EU, on the basis of EU regulation. This would mean that listed companies registered in Member States would be required to set up a specific function on their website where qualifying shareholders can place information relating to items on the forthcoming agenda and can seek proxies from other shareholders. Such a proxy solicitation system should be restricted to the provision of electronic information through the company’s website, to avoid costly and time consuming communication through hard copies. The regulation of the proxy solicitation should also be light touch, without seeking maximum, formalistic disclosures. To avoid that the proxy solicitation system is used for short term activism, shareholders would qualify if they hold a certain number of shares for a certain period of time, for example between 1 and 5% of the company’s share capital for a consecutive period of, say, at least one year. A qualifying shareholder who would use the system would be required to hold his shares at the date of the general meeting and to provide an explanation of his views at the meeting. Shareholders jointly holding the required number of shares during the required period should also qualify to use the system. This electronic system of proxy solicitation would require that listed companies facilitate voting on general meeting items on their website (either through a function on the website that provides for the voting itself, or through a link to a third party site who organises the electronic voting process for the company). If engaged shareholders would use such a system of proxy solicitation light this could also serve as an attractive alternative to proxy advisors for investors who find it difficult to analyse how to vote with a diversified portfolio of investments.